ISSN 2398-2950      

Vaccination protocols


Richard B Ford

Michael Day


  • Vaccination is an essential part of a healthcare program for domestic pets. The ideal strategy maximizes beneficial effects of vaccination while minimizing risks. This means ensuring each individual receives only the most appropriate vaccines, and that these vaccines are effective.
  • The immunogenicity of vaccines can be compromised by poor storage or inappropriate administration. In order to maintain efficacy vaccines must be stored in appropriate conditions:
    • Store under refrigeration at 2-8°C .
    • Do not freeze.
    • Protect from light.
    • Avoid prolonged or repetitive exposure to high ambient temperatures.
    • Once reconstituted (converted from dry to liquid form), vaccine should be used within 1 hour or it should be discarded)
  • The potency of many vaccines can be reduced by exposure to high temperatures for just a few hours.All vaccines should be stored in the refrigerator until used.
  • The technique of vaccination is also important, eg the skin should not be cleaned with disinfectants before injection. 
  • Only administer vaccine by the route(s) recommended by the manufacturer. Some agents given by the incorrect route may cause clinical disease, eg intranasal Bordetella bronchipseptica vaccine administered subcutaneously.
  • Several types of vaccines are available for protecting cats against various bacteria and viruses that cause infectious respiratory disease. Intranasal vaccines are available that provide rapid onset of immunity against both bacterial (Bordetella bronchiseptica) and viruses (feline herpesvirus-1 and calicivirus in the USA). The specific vaccine selected for administration should be determined by the risk for exposure unique to the individual cat.
  • The immune competence of the individual cat receiving vaccination is important in ensuring a protective immune response results from vaccination. Immunogenicity of a vaccine can be affected by poor health/nutrition, concurrent drug therapy, eg immunosuppressive agents, and stress.
  • For all vaccinations there are a number of important considerations to maximize vaccine efficacy while reducing risk of adverse effects:
    • Vaccinate healthy animals only.
    • Avoid vaccinating pregnant animals unless specifically indicated by manufacturer's datasheets.
    • If a pregnant queen must be vaccinated, use of inactivated (killed) vaccine is recommended.
  • In any population of animals, even with the strictest attention to correct administration, a small number of individuals may fail to respond to any vaccine. This is often genetically determined and such individuals are characterized as either 'low responders' or non-responders' to that particular antigenic component.
  • Chronic inflammation is one likely contributing factor in the development of feline injection site sarcoma Feline injection-site associated sarcoma (FISS). Veterinarians are encouraged to avoid use of adjuvant-containing vaccine that may induce a chronic inflammatory reaction at or near the injection site and to consider carefully the sites of injection for cats.

Protocol factors

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Vaccines by indication

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Hosie M J, Addie D D, Boucraut-Baralon C et al (2015) Matrix vaccination guidelines: 2015 ABCD recommendations for indoor/outdoor cats, rescue shelter cats and breeding catteries. J Feline Med Surg 17 (7), 583-587 PubMed.
  • Ford R B (2013) Vital vaccination series: feline injection-site sarcoma: then & now. Today's Vet Pract (4), 54-58 VetMedResource.
  • Ford R B (2013) 2013 Feline Vaccination Guidelines: Key points for veterinary practitioners. Today's Vet Pract 3, 68-73 Today's Veterinary Practice.
  • Ford R B (2013) Vital vaccination series: vaccination of cats against infectious upper respiratory disease. Today's Vet Pract (6), 57-61 VetMedResource.
  • Digangi B A, Levy J K, Griffin B et al (2012) Effects of maternally-derived antibodies on serologic responses to vaccination in kittens. J Feline Med Surg 14 (2), 118-123 PubMed.
  • Meyer A, Kershaw O & Klopfleisch R (2011) Feline calicivirus-associated virulent systemic disease: not necessarily a local epizootic problem. Vet Rec 168 (22), 589 PubMed.
  • Westhoff D, Orveillon F X, Farnow D et al (2010) Safety of a non-adjuvanted therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of feline dermatophytosis. Vet Rec 167 (23), 899-903 PubMed.
  • Jas D, Aeberlé C, Lacombe V et al (2009) Onset of immunity in kittens after vaccination with a non-adjuvanted vaccine against feline panleucopenia, feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus. Vet J 182 (1), 86-93 PubMed.
  • Lappin M R, Veir J & Hawley J (2009) Feline panleukopenia virus, feline herpesvirus-1, and feline calicivirus antibody responses in seronegative specific pathogen-free cats after a single administration of two different modified live FVRCP vaccines. J Feline Med Surg 11 (2), 159-162 PubMed.
  • Addie D, Poulet H, Golder M C et al (2008) Ability of antibodies to two new caliciviral vaccine strains to neutralise feline calicivirus isolates from the UK. Vet Rec 163 (12), 355-357 PubMed.
  • Mouzin D E, Lorenzen M J, Haworth J D et al (2004) Duration of serologic response to three viral antigens in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 224 (1), 61-66 PubMed.
  • Dawson S, Willoughby K, Gaskell R M et al (2001) A field trial to assess the effect of vaccination against feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and feline panleucopenia virus in 6-week-old kittens. J Feline Med Surg (1), 17-22 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Day M J and Schultz R D (2014) Vaccination. In: Veterinary immunology-Principles and Practice. 2nd edn. London: Mason Publishing.
  • Gaskell R M, Dawson S and Radford A D (2012) Feline respiratory diseases. In: Greene C (ed) Infectious diseases of the Dog and Cat. 4th edn. St. Louis: Elsevier, Saunders, p 151-162.
  • Greene C E and Levy J K (2012) Immunoprophylaxis. In: Greene CE, ed. Infectious diseases of the Dog and Cat. 4th edn. St Louis: Saunders-Elsevier, pp 1163-1205.
  • The Compendium on Animal Rabies Prevention and Control-2011, available at:
    or, Google "Rabies Compendium 2011".

Vaccination Guidelines

  • Stone A E S,  Brummet G O, Carozza E M, Kass P H, Petersen E P, Sykes J, Westman M E (2020) 2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 22(9), 813-830 PubMed Full Article.
  • May M J (2017) Small animal vaccination: a practical guide for vets in the UK. In Practice 39, 110-118.
  • Day M J, Horzinek M C, Schultz R D & Squires R A (2016) Guidelines for the vaccination of dogs and cats. Compiled by the Vaccination Guidelines Group (VGG) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). JSAP 57, E1-E45 (Full article).
  • 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report. J Feline Med Surg 15, 785-808. Also available online at: (Search: Guidelines).
  • Lutz H, Addie D, Belak S, Boucraut-Baralon C, Egberink H, Frymus T et al (2009) Feline leukaemia ABCD guidelines on prevention and management. J Feline Med Surg 11, 565-574 PubMed.  
  • European Advisory Board on Cat diseases: Vaccination Guidelines (2012), available at:  Accessed December 2014.

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